Wednesday, February 20, 2013

eVolution of the Announcements: The SMS Daily Message

Our guest blogger is Kristin Nass, principal at Scottsburg Middle School in Scott County School District 2. Her 6-8 building is a blended learning environment with 24/7 mobile devices for students and staff. This blog explains the impact of their new daily announcement system using a Google doc.

Our talented secretaries do not interrupt
classes for student messages
It wasn’t that long ago that our middle school communicated with the almighty morning announcement paper. Our secretary typed up messages (the ones we had by 9:00 AM), copies were made (Oh, the trees that were sacrificed), and swift and responsible students dispensed them around the building. This practice resulted in a trail of paper and a day filled with classroom interruptions as messages were added and altered after the 9:00 A.M deadline.

Just a few years ago technology improved this process. We typed a static announcement page and emailed it to staff! The improvement of email did allow the swift and responsible to stay in study hall but we did not save trees, however, as our staff still printed the emails! And of course we interrupted instruction with messages for students off and on all day.

This year, we took a quantum leap forward by launching the SMS Daily Message on Google Drive. We’ve replaced our outdated, static announcement page with a cloud-based, living, and collaborative message system. The Daily Message is a shared web document that all staff members are granted rights to edit. We all have this link on our bookmarks bar, and staff members keep this page open all day.
During the course of the year, our Daily Message has evolved into four primary components that could be used by any school.

1. General Announcements: We read general announcements over the intercom at 8:05 and 2:48. Rather than submitting a variety of hand-written paper scraps with messages to be deciphered by me, teachers open the Daily Message from any device and any location and directly add their messages to the announcement form. A sick teacher from home can add a message about canceling a club meeting that afternoon. As a principal, I just open up the doc, grab the microphone, and share these general announcements during our two standardized intercom sessions... sometimes reading something while it is being typed by a staff member.

2. Faculty Announcements: Since the Daily Message audience is for our staff only, we can post staff info such as deadlines, meeting reminders, and personal notes. This section is a great spot to link to blogs, clips, web sites, or other professional development locations.

3. Attendance: We copy our daily attendance from our student management system right onto this page. Teachers can check out the office attendance and see which students might be missing class for school activities or other reasons outside of the traditional student management system.
Teachers love the limiting of
classroom interruptions.

4. Student Messages: This is the biggest game changer in the announcement eVolution. Students with messages (ride the bus home, pick up your book in the library, etc.) used to have their names read over the intercom at the end of the day. This triggered a flood of office visits to secure said messages and a building full of teachers wondering, “Should that student have returned to my class?” Now, when a parent calls in to the office, the secretary types the information directly into the Student Message section of our shared doc. If the media specialist needs to tell kids their books are available in the library, she types in the pick-up note. If a teacher or coach needs to get a message to a student or two, these messages are typed directly into the doc by those individuals.

The magic of the student message delivery system is that teachers have this document open all day long. When Mrs. Jones sees that Amber needs to go to Grandma’s after school and she currently has Amber in class, Mrs. Jones delivers the message to Amber and then highlights the message and adds her initials and the time; leaving documentation that the message was delivered.

At the end of the day, we only read the names of those with unclaimed messages and we say, “The following students have messages on the Google Doc. Check with your teacher for the message.” Students don’t parade to the office unless the message is to report to the office to pick up something. We interrupt classes less frequently and we put fewer unsupervised students in the hallway.

Although collaboratively written, our Daily Message components are only deleted by the office staff. The last task of the day is to review the document and remove old messages. We leave the names of the students that received individual messages on the doc until the office closes, in case we have a student that did not ride home on the bus as directed and we get a parent inquiry. Yes, Mr. Rowling, Mrs. Anderson did tell JK to ride the bus! She told her at 2:45 today.

The Daily Message has helped us improve school communications, increase office efficiency, and most importantly, reduce classroom interruptions. But that has not been all. The Daily Message has also given our staff a daily, meaningful engagement with collaborative cloud-based documents. The experience has inspired our teachers to use Google Drive features for classroom instruction and assignments, team planning, meeting agendas and minutes, lesson plan submission, and grant writing.

The eVolution of the announcements is just one example of the digital revolution in our school. Check us out on the web at to find out more! And of course we challenge YOU to incorporate a cloud-based message system in your school! You'll love it!

The Challenge:

Scottsburg Middle School is utilizing Google Docs to collaborate on a schoolwide document. Can you see a use for a collaborative document in your school? What about in your classroom? If you don't already have a free Google Drive account, sign up for one and start brainstorming some ideas. If you're already using collaborative documents in your school or classroom share what you're doing in the comments section below.

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